There's no sense in querying the Mark Duggan jury

To accuse them of being illogical or stupid is to reject what a jury is for

Share

Whatever happened to the late Mark Duggan’s Aunt Carole the night after a jury decided that her nephew had been lawfully killed, she was certainly singing a softer tune by the morning. Having stood with other members of the Duggan clan outside the law courts on Wednesday evening, raging about “execution” amid chants of that easy slogan, “no justice, no peace”, yesterday it was all about keeping calm and the family pursuing its challenge by judicial means.

And thank goodness for that. With any luck, this means there will be no repetition of the riots that engulfed Tottenham and elsewhere two summers ago in response to Duggan’s death. But the apparent pacification of Aunt Carole will not stop the questions, nor should it.

The conduct of the police both before the fatal shooting (why and how they mounted their operation), and afterwards (when the officers involved were allowed to confer on their statements), leaves a bad taste and invites suspicion. And yet again the inadequacy of the Independent Police Complaints Commission has been exposed. Can we please have it replaced? Now.

That specific aspects of the affair relating to police behaviour raise questions, however, does not, of itself, discredit the verdict. To my mind, the most pernicious response here came less from members of Duggan’s family and their supporters – whose emotional excesses can just about be indulged, at a time when they had apparently expected something different – but from a narrow swathe of MPs, lawyers and criminologists. These professionals did not, of course, resort to terms such as “scum” to describe the jurors – perish the thought. But they did something almost as damaging. They cast doubt on the jury’s reasoning abilities, with all the understatement and condescension that is so characteristic of certain sections of their class.

The scene of the shooting in Tottenham, north London The scene of the shooting in Tottenham, north London In particular, they professed themselves “baffled” that the jury could at once find (by a margin of eight to two) that Duggan was not armed when he was shot, and, by the same margin, that the police had acted lawfully. They also drew attention to a discrepancy in the voting. While these verdicts went eight to two, the jurors decided by nine to one that Duggan had thrown the gun 6m on to the verge, (rather than it having been thrown, or planted there, by the police).

Are the jury’s votes really so inconsistent as to render them invalid? To a highly trained legalistic mind – or someone used to being on the wrong side of the police – there might well seem to be a contradiction between Duggan being unarmed when he was shot and being “lawfully killed”. The headline here is that the police shot dead an unarmed man.

But this is to look at what was occurring from just one perspective. If, instead, you see what happened as the police officer says he saw it – a man believed to have picked up a gun and to be preparing to fire it – you could well regard the action as lawful. The suspect might have been unarmed at that moment, but there was good reason for the police to think otherwise. And this is presumably how the jury regarded it, by a majority of eight to two.

There are occasions, and the Duggan inquest is one of them, when you would like British jurors to be able to explain what went on in the jury room, as their US counterparts may – though in this case it is probably better, for their own safety, that this is not allowed. But to accuse them of being illogical or – in essence – stupid is to reject what a jury is for. Selected randomly from the electoral register, they are the voice of ordinary people, the “community” in the proper sense of the word.

Their judgment might sometimes appear “perverse” – another word that cropped up this week – to the experts, but “expert” opinion may sometimes seem “perverse” to the rest of us when it seems to uphold the letter rather than the spirit of the law. In the Duggan case, the jurors applied their common sense to the sum of the evidence and came down by a big majority on the side of the police.

It could have been different. Given the passions aroused, this could have been a hung jury, but it wasn’t. Not by any manner of means. Those 10 individuals produced a verdict which to me – after listening to many phone-ins and reading many comments over the past 24 hours – seems to have a similar majority of the public on its side.

In the wake of the verdict, there has been much talk of policing by consent, as though local anger should sway the law. But there cannot be one law for Tottenham and another for the rest. Those jurors were listening and judging in the name of all of us. They gave our consent by a large majority. They probably got it about right.

A Europe without  Merkel? 

For perhaps the world’s two best-known Germans to suffer ski-ing accidents within a couple of weeks of each other has brought a deluge of comments about the dangers, or not, of this winter pursuit.

Understandably, the German Chancellor’s office was keen to play down the seriousness of Angela Merkel’s injury. It made clear she was skiing cross-country, not downhill; that she did not cut short her holiday, and only learned of the fracture after consulting a doctor once home. Her travel and meetings may be curtailed for a few weeks, but she’ll be working as assiduously as ever, but from home.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands with crutches as she attends a gathering of Epiphany child singers dressed as the Three Kings at the Chancellery German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands with crutches as she attends a gathering of Epiphany child singers dressed as the Three Kings at the Chancellery So that’s all right, and I’m sure that it is. But I wouldn’t mind betting that when news of her injury first broke, however minor and temporary it might be, scenario-planners the world over were suddenly thinking the hitherto unthinkable and considering the implications of a Germany and a Europe post-Merkel. The Chancellor, just starting her third term after a thoroughly convincing election victory, has come increasingly to be seen as a fixture – reliable, responsible, reassuring. You tend to take it for granted that she will be there forever, with her sensible clothes and sensible views. Not just Germany’s Mutti, but ours, too.

It is often and wisely said no one is indispensable. Which may be true. But until last weekend, Angela Merkel looked perilously close to becoming the exception that proves the rule.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015